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Tofu, which originated in China, is a popular food in Asian countries1 that is derived from condensed soy and it is also called soybean curds. Tofu is basically made with soy milk, beginning with curdling it, pressing it into a solid block, and cooling it. This process is similar to cheese making.
Now let’s learn about the tofu benefits and how it helps our bodies.
A mineral-rich coagulant called Nigari is used to solidify the tofu and keep it in perfect shape. Nigari is left over after the salt is extracted from the seawater.
It is noted that soybeans are cultivated on a large scale genetically modified (GMO). Soy foods made using GMO crops are not recommended for consumption because of their long-term health effects. The actual health benefits of tofu can be fully availed of organic and GMO-free soybeans.
1. Nutritional Facts
The tofu benefits 2are highly appreciable in terms of complete protein and essential amino acids our body needs. It is a diet-rich food; it fulfils all the necessary nutrition required by vegans. Let us see all the nutrients in 100 g of firm tofu.
- Calories: 144 kcal
- Protein: 17 g
- Carbohydrates: 3 g
- Fibre: 2 g
- Calcium: 53% of the daily limit
- Iron: 15% of the daily limit
- Magnesium: 14% of the daily limit
- Zinc: 14% of the daily limit
- Phosphorous: 15% of the daily limit
2. Rich in Antinutrients
Generally, plant food contains several antinutrients which make our bodies unable to absorb nutrients from the food we eat. Tofu contains two types of antinutrients, namely:
- Phytates: These compounds may decrease the absorption of minerals like calcium, zinc, and iron.
- Trypsin inhibitors: Trypsin is an enzyme responsible for the proper digestion of protein. Trypsin inhibitors are the compounds that block trypsin, which causes indigestion, stomachache, and gastric trouble.
Apart from inhibiting the nutrients from absorption, antinutrients may provide health benefits. For instance, the phytates act as a natural iron regulator and maintain the optimum concentration of iron.
3. Contain Isoflavones
Like all other soy foods, Tofu also contains isoflavones which function as plant estrogens and they bind with the estrogen receptors in our bodies.
Isoflavones behave like estrogen hormones in some cases but their effect is weaker. In some cases, these compounds don’t behave like estrogen, for instance, menstruation is not stimulated by isoflavones.
A 100 g serving of firm tofu offers 60 mg of isoflavones, on the contrary, 1 cup of soy milk contains only 28 mg.
Tofu benefits us in many ways. Let us find out what are those.
4. Benefits Of Tofu
The following health benefits of tofu can be availed by all ages irrespective of gender. What are they?
4.1.Prevents Cardiovascular Diseases
A significant benefit of soy foods,3 such as tofu, is their ability to lower cholesterol levels. Studies suggest that those who eat tofu have lower heart disease risk compared to those who don’t eat tofu. It is found that people who add tofu to their diet routine have lower total cholesterol and increased HDL (High-density Lipoprotein) levels, also known as good cholesterol.
Adding tofu to your diet could also benefit in gaining fibre, protein, and isoflavones4, which have benefits in maintaining proper heart health. This particular combination of proteins explains how tofu varies from other soy supplements.
The derivatives of animal proteins such as meat, eggs, and dairy have saturated fat which raises the LDL (bad) cholesterol and has the potential risk factor for heart attack. Instead of taking these animal proteins, tofu products help reduce the total amount of saturated fat and it has high levels of unsaturated fatty acids, thus, contributing to additional heart health care.
Organic tofu is a good source of lecithin and linoleic acid. These acids help regulate the overall metabolism rate and eliminate the cholesterol deposits in the body. Regular consumption of tofu and exercise makes our body cholesterol-free.
Research and clinical trials revealed that isoflavones, a soy protein, regulate blood pressure, another risk factor that causes cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) like heart failure, hypertension, and diseases linked with arteries. Soy isoflavones have antihypertensive properties, which expand the blood vessels and lower blood pressure.
4.2 Assuage Menopausal Symptoms
Soy isoflavones are described as plant estrogens, they mimic the hormone estrogen in the body, and they help in managing menopause symptoms in postmenopausal women.5 During menopause, the stabilization of estrogen levels is very crucial, tofu helps in stabilizing estrogen levels and also relieves hot flashes.
It is noted that diseases or allergies do not cause hot flashes; they are sudden feelings of intense warmth over the face, neck, and chest commonly due to menopause.
4.3.Safeguards from Cancer Risk
Soy intakes like tofu, bean curd, and soy milk may lower the risk of some cancers listed below.
Breast cancer is the second most commonly occurring cancer in women who are aged over 50 years.
The increasing estrogen levels in women are the potential risk of developing breast cancer cells6. Soy food such as Tofu contains soy isoflavones, which are phytoestrogen (plant estrogens) similar to human estrogen. It is a misconception that eating tofu may cause breast cancer, but there is still no supporting evidence.
Clinical tests were conducted over selective rats by serving them with higher levels of soy isoflavones. The rats who are served with high levels of soy isoflavones have developed breast cancer than the rats who are served in fewer amounts but the conflicting fact is, that the rats metabolize the soy isoflavones differently compared with humans.
In a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, approximately 73,000 Chinese women were consistently given high levels of soy foods during childhood and adolescence. These women were part of the Shanghai Women’s Health Study, and they reported experiencing good health and significantly reduced breast cancer risk.
In addition, consuming soy products aided in maintaining a healthy menstrual cycle, increasing sex hormone binding globulin levels, and decreasing estrogen levels.
Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer caused by abnormal cell division in the prostate gland in men, especially middle-aged men.
The prostate gland is located just below the urinary bladder and surrounds the upper part of the urethra (the tube that drains the urine). The prostate gland’s main function is to produce seminal fluid, which transports and nourishes the sperm.
Studies suggest that soy intake, like tofu, of three servings of extra firm tofu per day, has lowered the risk of early prostate cancer by up to 51 per cent.
4.3.3. Endometrial Cancer
Endometrial cancer7 is the 5th most commonly occurring cancer in women. The endometrium is the mucous membrane lining in the uterus, which plays a vital role in preparation for implantation and maintaining the pregnancy. If the implantation doesn’t happen, then it continues the menstrual cycle.
Increased exposure to estrogen may increase the endometrial cancer risk.8 Estrogen exposure includes oral contraceptives, early menarche, and late menopause. These exposures are due to modern lifestyles and unhealthy eating habits.
Elevation of endometrial cancer is also associated with obesity and low sex hormone-binding globulin.
A study from Science Daily suggests that eating tofu substantially suppresses blood sugar and insulin levels.
Diabetes is a disease where a diabetic body cannot produce enough insulin, a hormone that produces blood sugar (glucose) or is unable to use it effectively. As a result, the body becomes obese. How does insulin play an important role in maintaining glucose?
4.4.1. Role of Insulin
Insulin is secreted by the Pancreas, a gland below the stomach that regulates the glucose level in our bodies. The different processes that insulin does to regulate glucose are listed below.
- The food intake is broken down to form glucose and nutrients.
- Glucose enters the blood and signals the pancreas to release insulin.
- Insulin is circulated in the bloodstream, which helps cells (muscle, fat, and liver cells) to absorb glucose.
- Whenever glucose level drops in the bloodstream, it signals the insulin to decrease its amount.
- Lower insulin levels are a sign for the liver to release stored glucose by breaking the glycogen to maintain the glucose level even if you miss your eating schedule.
This cycle repeats endlessly to maintain the optimum glucose concentration in our bodies.
What is the significance of glucose?
Glucose is the major energy source for the cells, including muscle, fat, and liver cells. The glucose is generated by the breaking down of food we eat and the liver. These are the two sources of glucose production. The optimum level is less than 140 mg/dL (milligram per decilitre) and after two hours of eating, the level may be more than 200 mg/dL.
4.4.2.Types of Diabetes
Diabetes is classified according to the amount of insulin and glucose produced in the body.
22.214.171.124.Type 1 diabetes
The pancreas’s failure causes type 1 diabetes due to the harsh effect of the immune system (autoimmune reaction), also known as Insulin-dependent diabetes.
Many people believe that type 1 diabetes is caused by diet and lifestyle, but that diet and lifestyle have no impact on this type of diabetes. The immune system is to be blamed for the cause since autoimmune reaction destroys the beta cells in the pancreas, which produce insulin.
Tofu may help prevent the beta cells from destruction, impacting the pancreas to function normally.
126.96.36.199.Type 2 diabetes
Whenever there is a notion about diabetes, we come across the term Insulin-Resistance, a condition where cells do not respond properly to insulin. As a result, the cells can’t absorb glucose for energy requirements, and eventually, the glucose level rises.
The glucose level progressively increases in the bloodstream resulting in Hyperglycemia,9 which can damage the blood vessels that supply blood to pivotal organs like the brain, heart, kidney, etc., and increase the risk of heart disease and stroke, kidney disease, and nervous breakdown.
Tofu decreases glucose levels and improves glucose tolerance.
Gestational diabetes may occur in pregnant women. It is considered the worst compared to other types of diabetes since it has a high risk of affecting both the mother and fetus (baby).
In most cases, gestational diabetes gets cured after the baby is born but they may likely get type 2 diabetes in later stages of life. Also, the baby may be obese at a young age and be more likely to develop type 2 diabetes afterwards.
The glucose level after fasting is lower than or equal to 99 mg/dL, if it is about 100 to 125 mg/dL then the person has prediabetes. There is an increase in glucose level but comparatively less than the glucose level observed in type 2 diabetes.
4.5.Improves Bone Health
Osteoporosis is a medical condition in which the bone becomes weak and fragile, and it is a common age-related disease that affects both men and women. Bone density decreases at a higher rate for women because estrogen deficiency induced by menopause that retards bone health.
Advancements in medical sciences have solutions for age-related osteoporosis but they are accompanied by side effects. Soy foods such as Tofu are natural sources of medicine and of no side effects.
Tofu contains Calcium Sulfate (CAS), a biodegradable molecule that is helpful in insulating bone defects. It prevents the growth of fibrous tissue between the connection of bones and hence promotes bone formation and gives flexibility to the body.
4.6.Enhances Brain Power
Tofu is also known for its memory-building properties that optimize memory and reduce obliviation. Forgetfulness is a common age-related disorder in many older people but nowadays, children and youth are also affected by this particular disorder.
The Lecithin content in Tofu helps the body produce the phospholipids phosphatidic acid (PA)10, which enhances the function of neurons and ultimately reduces forgetfulness.
4.7.Prevents Liver Damage
A study published in the Iranian Journal of Basic Medical Sciences reveals that soy isoflavones drastically reduce the accumulation of fat and triglycerides in patients diagnosed with liver damage.
4.8.Boosts Kidney Function
The vital minerals like protein, phosphorus, Magnesium Chloride, and Sodium are present in Tofu and help in treating Chronic kidney disease (CKD) and dialysis. Tofu may help filtrate uric acid and other wastes from the blood and detoxify the kidneys.
5. Additional Health Benefits of Tofu
Tofu benefits aren’t limited to some extent but also have some additional benefits. They are listed below.
5.1.Promotes Hair Growth
Hair loss issues are concerned with the deficiency of Keratin. It is a protein that plays a crucial role in hair growth and strengthening. Tofu contains Keratin, hence strengthening the hair strand and preventing it from being damaged.
Severe iron deficiency causes Anemia in the body, which reduces the blood’s healthy Red blood cells (RBC) count. Haemoglobin, which is present in red blood cells, is responsible for transferring oxygen-rich blood from the lungs to all the tissues in the body.
Tofu is an excellent source of iron, thus preventing Anemia.
Research suggests that tofu may positively impact our lives by controlling cholesterol levels11, lowering the risk of cancers, and reducing the symptoms of menopause.
On the other hand, soy intake, such as tofu, could negatively affect us in terms of digestion and ovarian function.
More research and randomized controlled trials are required to conclude whether consuming extra firm tofu could benefit you but according to current studies, adding tofu to your diet is healthy.
7. Frequently Asked Questions
7.1. Is It Good to Eat Tofu Everyday?
However, as a general rule, it’s okay to eat tofu every day. “The Food and Drug Administration has confirmed that eating 25 grams of soy protein per day can help lower cholesterol,” the director said. “Some experts recommend eating four beans a day, including tofu, for heart health.
7.2. What Does Tofu Do to Your Body?
Tofu also contains all the essential amino acids your body needs and is rich in minerals and vitamins, including calcium, manganese, iron and vitamin A. Tofu and other soy foods also are primary sources of isoflavones. Those are flavonoids – plant-created chemicals that are associated with a variety of health benefits.
7.3. Is Tofu Healthy or Not?
Tofu is a very nutritious food. Including tofu in your regular meals and snacks can provide many health benefits. These benefits include promoting brain health, reducing menopausal symptoms and preventing heart disease.
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- Pal, Mahendra, Mridula Devrani, and Yodit Ayele. “Tofu: A popular food with high nutritional and health benefits.” Food & Beverages Processing 5 (2019): 54-55. ↩︎
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- Ghazanfarpour, Masumeh, et al. “The relationship between women’s attitude towards menopause and menopausal symptoms among postmenopausal women.” Gynecological Endocrinology 31.11 (2015): 860-865. ↩︎
- Feuer, Eric J., et al. “The lifetime risk of developing breast cancer.” JNCI: Journal of the National Cancer Institute 85.11 (1993): 892-897. ↩︎
- Amant, Frederic, et al. “Endometrial cancer.” The Lancet 366.9484 (2005): 491-505. ↩︎
- MacMahon, Brian. “Risk factors for endometrial cancer.” Gynecologic oncology 2.2-3 (1974): 122-129. ↩︎
- Clement, Stephen, et al. “Management of diabetes and hyperglycemia in hospitals.” Diabetes care 27.2 (2004): 553-591. ↩︎
- Zegarlinska, Jolanta, et al. “Phosphatidic acid–a simple phospholipid with multiple faces.” Acta Biochimica Polonica 65.2 (2018): 163-171. ↩︎
- Grundy, Scott M. “Cholesterol and coronary heart disease: a new era.” Jama 256.20 (1986): 2849-2858. ↩︎